MARCH 2, 2022



     Critics of Christianity often point out that Christians are hypocrites. Christians publicly espouse a certain set of rules for living—including care for creation, serving God and neighbors in need, and loving our enemies—and, just as publicly, fail to live up to those rules every day and in every way.

     Pastor Tony Campolo often tells the story of people who say they don’t want to go to church because of all the hypocrites. He reassures them that they should feel right at home. Church is for real people, and real people fail to do and say the right things—real people are hypocrites. Campolo argues that the Christian ideal is to know you’re a hypocrite and earnestly work at being less hypocritical.

     All the same, we don’t want to be hypocrites or show-offs. We question the motives behind our public and private spiritual practices; we question our neighbors’ motives too. In today’s gospel we hear about fasting cheerfully and praying in secret. And yet, as we leave the church building, we bear a public and very noticeable sign of faith right on our foreheads. Lent begins with a bold, visible, unmistakable reminder of who we are: simultaneously mortal dust and baptized children of God. Simultaneously saint and sinner. Simultaneously hypocrites and earnest, hopeful Christians.

Confession and Forgiveness

In the name of God, who makes a way in the wilderness, walks with us, and guides us in our pilgrimage.


Holy One,

we confess that we have wandered far from you:  we have not trusted your promises, we have ignored your prophets in our own day, we have squandered our inheritance of grace, we have failed to recognize you in our midst.  Have mercy on us!  Forgive us and turn us again to you.  Teach us to follow in your ways, assure us again of your love, and help us to love our neighbor.


Beloved in Christ, the Word draws near to you, and all who call out to God shall be saved.  In Jesus, God comes to you again and again and gathers you under wings of love.  In ☩ Jesus’ name, your sins are forgiven.  God journeys with you and teaches you how to live in love.


GATHERING HYMN:  VU 642   Be Thou My Vision


Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


First Reading: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Because of the coming Day of the Lord, the prophet Joel calls the people to a community lament. The repentant community reminds God of his gracious character and asks God to spare the people, lest the nations doubt God’s power to save.

1Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
2a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.
12Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?

15Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.

17Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery,
  a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”

Psalm 51:1-17

R:  Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (Ps. 51:1)

1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
  in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me | from my sin.
3For I know my offenses, and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
  so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment. R
5Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness, a sinner from my mother’s womb.
6Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me, and would have me know wisdom deep within.
7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness; that the body you have broken may rejoice. R
9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my wickedness.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. R
13Let me teach your ways to offenders, and sinners shall be restored to you.
14Rescue me from bloodshed, O God of my salvation,
  and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
16For you take no delight in sacrifice, or I would give it.  You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a troubled and broken heart, O God, you will not despise. R

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10

The ministry of the gospel endures many challenges and hardships. Through this ministry, God’s reconciling activity in the death of Christ reaches into the depths of our lives to bring us into a right relationship with God. In this way, God accepts us into the reality of divine salvation.

20bWe entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says,
 “At an acceptable time I have listened to you,

  and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commends almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, but emphasizes that spiritual devotion must not be done for show.

 1“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

  2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

  5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

  16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

  19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


The Porcupine Whose Name Didn’t Matter

From The Way Of The Wolf, by Martin Bell[1]


Joggi stood before the mystery of his own life much as any other porcupine might have.  That is to say, he was exceedingly cautious in the face of it.  I do not mean to imply that it was difficult for Joggi to acknowledge the mystery.  On the contrary!  He had no trouble whatsoever recognizing the ebb and flow of his own limitations and the infinite variety and possibility within his universe.

Joggi knew about the ongoing beat of life. The daily. The humdrum. The having-one-day-showed-up; and now, like it or not, the finding-oneself-here in the midst of existence, virtually crushed by an environment, called upon to create the entire world; the bittersweet mingling of all of this with an inner insistence to go on, and on, until….Until what?

Joggi was cautious in the face of the mystery.  So cautious, in fact, that almost nobody knew his name.  Most of the animals in the forest had seen the nearsighted porcupine moving slowly about, poking his pointed black nose into the vegetation, bristling and puffing, squinting and stumbling.  Few had spoken to him.  Now and then someone would say hello, and ask after his health–an attempt to strike up a conversation of sorts.  This never really led to anything, however, because Joggi would not–no, that isn’t fair–Joggi could not risk such a head-on collision.

Joggi’s decisional hesitancy usually expressed itself this way.  When asked what his name was, he would answer,

“It doesn’t matter!  It doesn’t matter what my name is!  Can’t you see?  What difference does it make?  I won’t tell you what my name is, because it doesn’t matter!”

That would be the reply.  And, more often than not, that would be the end of the conversation.  Joggi could not embrace another, he would not tell anyone his name, and the result was almost always the same:  the other animals avoided him.

One significant exception to this was Gamiel, the racoon.  Gamiel did not mind Joggi’s reticence at all.  It did not bother him when the prickly little porcupine was silent for hours at a time, and he had never even thought to ask about Joggi’s name.

Gamiel could remember very little before the accident, and much of what had happened since was blurred somewhere in the recesses of his brain, all but lost to memory.

The crippled raccoon never again would look at his reflection in the quiet waters.  Not because he wasn’t willing to see his disfigured image, but rather because he wasn’t able to see anything at all.  Ever since the accident, Gamiel had been totally blind.

Joggi found Gamiel about two days after the pain had stopped, and approximately three hours after the racoon had given up all hope.

“Is someone there?”

“You’re a raccoon.”

“Oh, yes, indeed I am!  Only I think something awful has happened to me.  I cannot see anything at all, and I can barely move.  Please, tell me what has happened to me!  Am I going to die?  Why won’t anyone stop when I cry out?  Why can’t I see?  What has happened?  Please…I’m afraid….”

“I believe you have been shot.  I cannot be certain, of course, but that is my opinion.  Are you in a great deal of pain?”

“No.  At first there was pain.  But I can’t feel anything now.  In fact, my whole left side is numb.  No.  No more pain.  Just, well…nothing.”


“Are you still there?”

“Yes, I’m here.  I was just wondering what to do now.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do anything!  Honestly, I mean that!  You don’t have to do anything at all.  Just stay with me for a little while.  Just be there.  Just don’t go away.  Please.  You don’t have to do anything!  Just stay with me.  I’m afraid!  You won’t go away, will you?”

“No.  No, I won’t go away.”

“Thank you”

And then the wounded raccoon fell asleep.  Joggi stood beside Gamiel all that day.  Then when evening came, a cool breeze made his spines whistle slightly.  The sound woke the raccoon.

“Are you there?”

“Yes.  I told you I wouldn’t go away.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I thought you probably would be.  Can you move at all?”

“I can try.”

“Good for you!  That will do nicely.  I can bring you food, but you will need to maneuver for yourself in order to get water.  I believe you have enough strength to reach the pond;  it isn’t very far, and I can guide you directly to it.  Come on.  Let’s see how it goes.”

This was how it began.  An unusual partnership, perhaps.  Certainly the rest of the animals in the forest were surprised to see the pair of them moving slowly about, managing to live from one day to the next without really doing much of anything.  Occasionally Joggi would describe something for Gamiel, or answer a question, or direct the crippled raccoon toward a tasty morsel of food.  Gamiel, for his part, chattered happily, basked in the sun, and generally enjoyed his friend’s company.

They made a home for one another, Joggi and Gamiel.  Not a regular home exactly; not a place.  More like a shelter from the excessive pain that each of them had known.  A coming together of two lonely and frightened creatures.  A bond of trust that asked no questions, expected nothing at all except the merciful being together that made waking up tomorrow possible.  Gamiel didn’t mind when Joggi was silent for hours at a time.  He could sense the beat.  Thumping, ongoing, steady.  There.  That was enough.

Joggi was with Gamiel for one full year before the injured raccoon finally died.  It was a quiet event, almost a surprise but that Joggi had been expecting it for so long.  Gamiel’s strength just finally gave out and the mystery enveloped him completely.

Joggi addressed the raccoon who lay there on the ground, no longer able to hear him,

” You know, I’ve been expecting this for quite some time now.  I am surprised that you managed to stay alive as long as you did.  I knew the day I found you it couldn’t last.  Not for long.  You’d been hurt too badly.  I never expected you to live this long.  And yet… well, I hoped that it might have been a little longer.  Do you know what I mean?  You see, I never knew anybody very well before.  Not that we ever talked much, or anything like that.  But I felt I knew you anyway.  Even without talking.  I have a really hard time talking to anybody, or getting to know anybody.  And nobody ever wants to get very close to me because of all these spines that I have sticking out of me.  I don’t suppose you ever knew that I had spines sticking out all over me, did you?  They’re sort of like needles and they’re very sharp.  I guess they scare everybody a bit.  I hope you don’t mind my talking so much.  I really don’t know why I’m talking to you now.  I suppose it’s just that I had a little more to tell you before you died; I have been wanting to say this for almost a year and never quite found the right time to do it.  It’s too late now, I realize, but I’ve been wanting to tell you that it has been an honor to meet you, and that you are indeed a very handsome raccoon, and that I would like to consider you my friend.”

“Oh, and by the way, I’d like to tell you what my name is.  It’s a funny name I suppose.  But I’d like you to know what it is.”  (Pause)  “It’s Joggi.”

Without another word, the tiny porcupine turned away from Gamiel’s lifeless form and began to cry.

This is true piety.  It is how Christ loved and why Christ died.  True piety is love that is rooted in God and flows freely from the heart to others.  This is how we are called to love.  It is a love that encompasses all and accepts all.  It is not a love based on conditions, convenience or ease of living.  This is what it means to rend your heart and not your clothing.  Amen.

HYMN:  WOV 732   Create In Me A Clean Heart


Friends in Christ, today with the whole church we enter the time of remembering Jesus’ passover from death to life, and our life in Christ is renewed.

We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and for God’s mercy. We are created to experience joy in communion with God, to love one another, and to live in harmony with creation. But our sinful rebellion separates us from God, our neighbors, and creation, so that we do not enjoy the life our creator intended.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent—self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love—strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. Let us continue our journey through these forty days to the great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Most holy and merciful God,

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, O God.

We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on us, O God.

Our past unfaithfulness, the pride, envy, hypocrisy, and apathy that have infected our lives, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to share the faith that is in us, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.

Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.

Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.

Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, we confess to you.

Have mercy on us, O God.

Restore us, O God, and let your anger depart from us.

Hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.



Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth.  May these ashes be a sign of our mortality and penitence, reminding us that only by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ are we given eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation,

that we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son, our Savior,

bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Merciful God, accompany our journey through these forty days. Renew us in the gift of baptism, that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence, and above all that we may find our treasure in the life of your Son. 





Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good;

render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all people; love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Almighty God, motherly, majestic, and mighty, ☩ bless you this day and always.


[1] The way of the wolf : the Gospel in new images / Martin Bell.

Author/Creator: Bell, Martin, 1937-2009.  Publication: New York : Seabury Press, [©1970].